Deadly tornado strikes several towns, villages in Czech Republic

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At least three people died and dozens were injured after a rare tornado razed houses in the Czech Republic's southeast, rescuers said on Friday as they combed rubble for more victims.

"It's a living hell," regional governor Jan Grolich said Friday after seeing the overwhelming destruction caused by the twister.

Local emergency services spokeswoman Hedvika Kropackova told AFP that rescuers "could not help three patients" but that 63 injured people had been taken to hospital, ten of them in serious condition.

"There will be more," she added, noting that more injured people were calling for help on Friday.

Firefighters and a special rescue team were still searching on Friday morning for potential casualties under the debris from the freak weather.

Austrian and Slovak rescuers were helping out and the Czech army was deployed in the region.

The tornado and hail the size of tennis balls struck several towns and villages including Hodonin, where in addition to causing injuries the extreme weather destroyed a retirement home and the local zoo.

"We're moving the retirement home residents to a city hotel," the city of Hodonin said on Facebook.

The tornado also caused extensive power outages and traffic disruptions, with fallen power lines closing a major motorway connecting Prague with the Slovak capital Bratislava.

A total of 78,000 households and companies were left without power on Friday morning.

Video footage from the region on social networks showed destroyed buildings and cars, shorn tree stumps and several fires with thick black smoke.

'Great strength'

Interior Minister Jan Hamacek said that more than 1,000 houses had been hit by the storm.

Marek Babisz, the deputy mayor of the hard-hit village of Hrusky, told AFP that half of his village had been razed to the ground.

"A structural engineer and energy workers are now checking the worst-hit part of the village to determine which houses will be demolished and which ones can be saved," he said.

The Hrusky church lost its belfry and roof to the tornado.

Cleaning is under way in the less affected part of the village, with container trucks arriving and leaving full of debris.

"We are now trying to secure food and water for everyone so they could eat at least a bit," Babisz said.

The hailstorm also damaged the chateau in the nearby town of Valtice, which is part of the UNESCO-listed Lednice-Valtice Cultural Landscape.

Slovak President Zuzana Caputova expressed condolences and wished "great strength" to the affected Czechs on Facebook.

The storms passing over the Czech Republic forced Prime Minister Andrej Babis to remain in Brussels following Thursday's EU summit as a landing in Prague would have been too dangerous.

In neighbouring Poland, a twister struck the southern Malopolska province on Thursday, damaging roofs and injuring one person according to local media.

Tornadoes are rare in the Czech Republic, with the last notable one dating to 2004 when around 50 houses were damaged in the eastern town of Litovel.

(AFP)

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